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Vista man denies murder and dumping body

Kirk Stapleton allegedly feared he had been exposed to AIDS

Kirk Stapleton and defense attorney Deb Kirkwood
Kirk Stapleton and defense attorney Deb Kirkwood

A sheriff’s detective claimed in court on February 11 that he has eight minutes of surveillance video showing a man pushing a shopping cart down the street to dump his girlfriend’s body beside a trash dumpster in Vista.

The video begins about 10:56 a.m. on Sunday, August 18, 2013, according to San Diego County sheriff’s detective Bill Anderson.

The detective said a male subject can be seen crossing Bobier Drive with a shopping cart and a 24-ounce-sized can of beer in one hand. This man dumped “something very heavy” behind a business located at 1461 North Santa Fe Avenue. A body covered in trash bags and a Steel Reserve 211 beer can were found there by investigators; a swab from the beer-can DNA matched Kirk Leon Stapleton, a prosecutor said.

Stapleton’s DNA was already on file because he went to prison for beating up one of his brothers in 2011. Stapleton has at least six convictions in San Diego County, starting in 1986, for a stolen vehicle, drugs, and theft, according to records.

Stapleton, 53, lived with his brothers Scot and John in a home at 1851 Goodwin Drive, about a half mile from where the body was found, according to testimony.

Juanita Jeanette Kawash

The body of Juanita Jeanette Kawash, 47, was identified by fingerprints.

The woman died from “blunt force injuries,” according to San Diego County medical examiner Dr. Jacquelyn Morhaime. The doctor said she found a fractured nose and dislocated jaw, ribs fractured on both sides, and broken vertebrae in the lower back, during an autopsy none last August.

Two brothers of the defendant testified that they are afraid of Kirk Stapleton. Older brother Scot said, “He has a violent tendency.”

Younger brother John testified that when Kirk first brought Juanita to their home, “I thought he was trying to help her get off the streets.” John knew the woman by her first name only and said he understood that Juanita was a “known prostitute” and drug addict.

The younger brother said he heard loud disagreements, “Just a lot of argument, in the garage.” Kirk and Juanita lived in the garage, he said.

Kirk was furious one day, John said, waving around papers that informed Juanita that she had been exposed to AIDS; this meant that Kirk had also been exposed to AIDS.

Defense attorney Deborah Kirkwood suggested there was no evidence of premeditation and so the case should not be charged as first-degree murder.

Stapleton pleaded not guilty to one count of murder. His trial date has been set for April 2 in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse.

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Kirk Stapleton and defense attorney Deb Kirkwood
Kirk Stapleton and defense attorney Deb Kirkwood

A sheriff’s detective claimed in court on February 11 that he has eight minutes of surveillance video showing a man pushing a shopping cart down the street to dump his girlfriend’s body beside a trash dumpster in Vista.

The video begins about 10:56 a.m. on Sunday, August 18, 2013, according to San Diego County sheriff’s detective Bill Anderson.

The detective said a male subject can be seen crossing Bobier Drive with a shopping cart and a 24-ounce-sized can of beer in one hand. This man dumped “something very heavy” behind a business located at 1461 North Santa Fe Avenue. A body covered in trash bags and a Steel Reserve 211 beer can were found there by investigators; a swab from the beer-can DNA matched Kirk Leon Stapleton, a prosecutor said.

Stapleton’s DNA was already on file because he went to prison for beating up one of his brothers in 2011. Stapleton has at least six convictions in San Diego County, starting in 1986, for a stolen vehicle, drugs, and theft, according to records.

Stapleton, 53, lived with his brothers Scot and John in a home at 1851 Goodwin Drive, about a half mile from where the body was found, according to testimony.

Juanita Jeanette Kawash

The body of Juanita Jeanette Kawash, 47, was identified by fingerprints.

The woman died from “blunt force injuries,” according to San Diego County medical examiner Dr. Jacquelyn Morhaime. The doctor said she found a fractured nose and dislocated jaw, ribs fractured on both sides, and broken vertebrae in the lower back, during an autopsy none last August.

Two brothers of the defendant testified that they are afraid of Kirk Stapleton. Older brother Scot said, “He has a violent tendency.”

Younger brother John testified that when Kirk first brought Juanita to their home, “I thought he was trying to help her get off the streets.” John knew the woman by her first name only and said he understood that Juanita was a “known prostitute” and drug addict.

The younger brother said he heard loud disagreements, “Just a lot of argument, in the garage.” Kirk and Juanita lived in the garage, he said.

Kirk was furious one day, John said, waving around papers that informed Juanita that she had been exposed to AIDS; this meant that Kirk had also been exposed to AIDS.

Defense attorney Deborah Kirkwood suggested there was no evidence of premeditation and so the case should not be charged as first-degree murder.

Stapleton pleaded not guilty to one count of murder. His trial date has been set for April 2 in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse.

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